5th April 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. Discuss why the recent reforms for granting more autonomy to higher education system may not prove as efficient and useful as intended.
- A crisis was inadvertently triggered by Pranab Mukherjee, then President, bemoaning the fact that there was no Indian university listed in the top 200 in the world. Suddenly, all India suffered from rankings envy and we decided to vie for the Olympics of rankings. Sadly, speed became a substitute for efficiency and mobility appropriated justice.
- If excellence is marginally defined, autonomy is reduced to a market instrument. The state seems to withdraw from education playing a reluctant Father Christmas. Institutions have now the right to change admission rules, charge more fees to attract more people. The idea of university as a public space, as a commons where subsidies allowed marginals to participate in education with dignity, is lost. The market creates its own filters and slowly the poor lose entry to a system.
- There is also an illiteracy of history here as autonomy is regarded as some new invention when autonomy was always a part of the university tradition. The state might support a university while the rules of the craft were always in the hands of practitioners. The word peer group reflects solidarity, fraternity and a definition of quality in terms of collectively debated norms. Certification had an intellectual rather than clerical quality to it. The government`s insistence on divesting itself of its responsibility cannot be disguised in creating a few narrow entitlements for a few institutions. What we then face in India is a split-level world where the majority of institutions suffer from neglect and mediocrity, while a few parade their affluence as quality. It is an attempt to enforce a Darwinism in education while pretending to offer freedom. The rich can create captive institutions while the middle class watches helplessly as quality education in democratic spaces empties out. The JNU battle is a fight to define one’s future without having it specified to one in the name of an ersatz freedom.
- Similarly, ranking is an act of fetishism where quality gets defined as a product than a process. The university loses its ritual right to initiate a student in terms of the rules of the craft. This world of creativity disappears as we instrumentalise education and reduce the university to a certification machine, a glorified tutorial college. All this is done in the name of acceleration where India hopes to manufacture two Oxfords without sensing the organicity or the tacit knowledges of education. Here autonomy as limited agency loses out to justice as a right to define and evaluate one’s situation. The academe becomes a passive receiver of diktats in the name of freedom. What one loses here is the creative pluralism of the university as the home of dissenting, as knowledge is standardised in the name of market efficiency. Also, freedom here is seen in the narrow sense of entrepreneurship. The creative tensions of the university get mowed down in this wave of standaridisation and managerialisation; market friendly freedom destroys many of the lesser domains of knowledge which are custodians of the value systems of the future.
- There is another issue. The university is a place for dreaming, for following not the logic of productivity or fame but a vision of new possibilities, many of them which may not be majoritarian or market-oriented. Ranking, as one professor said, allows others to dream for us. Nothing can be more unfair.
Q2. China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have not exploited full potential in terms of trade. What according to you are the reasons for the same? Also suggest other secors where cooperation between these countries can be beneficial.
- At the heart of South Asia’s poor integration is India-Pakistan rivalry, further complicated by China-Pakistan proximity and India-China hostility. A new dimension has been added with souring of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations and the India-China tug of war over Bangladesh.
- Today the big three of South Asia are caught up in a complex quagmire, both within and beyond the region. The remaining five — i.e. Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan — are paying the price of regional disintegration caused by unresolved puzzles having roots in the China-IPB (CIPB) axis. If the big three can have a strategic partnership that also factors in China, the remaining five can effortlessly fit into positive regionalism with a win-win situation for all.
- IPB account for approximately 95% of South Asia’s GDP and population. Along with China, they account for 18.5% of global GDP and 41% of global population. South Asia’s intra-regional trade, currently 5% of total trade, can grow to $80 billion from the current $28 billion, the lion’s share being within IPB. Pakistan and India have potential trade capacity of $20 billion compared to the current $3 billion. Underdeveloped transport and logistics services and bureaucratic procedures are deterring India-Bangladesh cross border trade, which can grow by 300%. TheBangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) has a pivotal position in developing joint investment agreements but sluggish progress in infrastructural development has rendered the corridor nearly comatose. Due to its common borders with China and India, Myanmar’s significance also needs to be factored in.
- India continues to be the natural choice for external investors including Chinese multinational enterprises like Alibaba and Xiaomi. In 2016, foreign direct investment to Pakistan rose by 56%, largely due to Chinese investment in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure. Although the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being developed as a bilateral initiative, if Indian sensitivities can be addressed, it can be a multilateral project, integrating India as well as other South Asian and Central Asian regions. China has already pledged $38 billion to Bangladesh under the BRI. Synergetic integration of the economic corridors with other BRI projects can accelerate inward investment into IPB.
- Due to cross-border barriers and lack of transport facilitation among IPB, freight movement is taking place along expensive routes, escalating investment cost. Movement of trucks across the international frontier is confined by absence of cross-border agreements between India and Bangladesh and India and Pakistan. China is injecting huge funds into physical infrastructure such as Pakistan’s Gwadar port project and $20 billion in various Indian industrial and infrastructural projects. China has committed $1.4 billion for building Colombo Port City and is set to invest $1 billion more.
- Rail connectivity is restricted due to technical problems of different gauges, track structures, signalling and so forth. Absence of a multilateral agreement has restricted the realisation of the railway potential. The deep-pocketed Chinese can invest in land and rail infrastructure to develop both inter-regional connectivity and intra-regional connectivity. Although India and Bangladesh have started exploring opportunities using Ashuganj inland port, regional inland waterways remain unexplored. Air cargo flights are encumbered by limited access to Indian airspace by Pakistan and vice-versa. China can lead in transport and transit agreements to facilitate smooth movement of freight and passenger vehicles across IPB resulting in integration with China and also South Asia.
- IPB fail to attract sufficient tourists due to poor civil aviation connectivity, complex regulations and lack of visa liberalisation procedures. Of China’s total outbound tourists, only 1% are to IPB. Inadequate, expensive and mediocre travelling facilities against the backdrop of pickpockets, burglary, and sexual assaults have resulted in tourists lacking interest in the region. Rooms that cost $400 a night in Delhi or Mumbai would cost hardly $100 in most parts of China.China is unable to attract students from South Asia against the improved facilities provided by the U.S. and U.K.Only 5% of outbound students of IPB go to China, compared to 22% to the U.S. If these opportunities are tapped, it would enhance mobility of both tourists and students.
- The supply-demand gap of power in IPB is estimated to be 18,707 MW. To unravel the full potential, energy treaties based on renewable sources have become imperative. China and India are shifting from fossil fuels to renewables. With greater electricity generation and utilisation of domestic energy endowments, combined efforts of BCIM, CPEC and the proposed China-Nepal-India (CNI) Economic Corridor under BRI, can capitalise on regional energy potential.
- By 2050, China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will experience water shortages. The three largest trans-boundary river basins, Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra, are all within CIPB. This represents a huge potential for water-sharing and hydro power projects across the basins, but political mistrust is an impediment. The Zangmu hydroelectricity dam, situated in the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, has raised concerns in India over downstream water supply. This damming, along with that of the Ganga, could exacerbate Bangladesh’s downstream water scarcity. While there exist bilateral river-water sharing treaties between India and Pakistan as well as India and Bangladesh, China is absent except for a hydrological data-sharing collaboration. China has expressed interest to pursue water- sharing treaties and the other three affected can come together in a collaborative framework. This can boost the livelihoods of millions across the region.
- India and China are leading globally in terms of Internet and smartphone users, but Internet penetration for these four countries is below 55%, representing immense potential. Bangladesh, Cambodia and China have signed a framework to strengthen digital regional trade. China’s BRI initiative is projected to increase connectivity by developing digital infrastructure.
- Between 2016 and 2020, international bandwidth is expected to grow at an average of 43.5% across CPEC and 46.3% across BCIM. Higher broadband connectivity and Internet access can boost regional e-commerce. Digital connectivity can act as the gateway to a holistic transformation of the region via the CIPB conduit.
Q3. Discuss the various drawbacks of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016.
- Last month, The Ministry of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has collected over ?50,000 crore in aCentral compensatory afforestation fund (CAF). This money is to be used though the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 or CAF, a purported mechanism to offset forest loss. Before issuing forest clearances to a mine, dam or industry, the Ministry fixes a monetary value for the forest that is to be destroyed and collects this as “compensation”. The funds are to be then used to “afforest” alternative land.
- The fund’s growth over the past decade is a measure of the forest destruction under way in India. It is also a potent indicator of the scale of resource appropriation from some of India’s most marginalised citizens, namely Adivasis and other communities, living in and around forests. The CAF Act is a deeply flawed piece of legislation because it reduces their displacement, hardship and loss of livelihood and food sources to a monetary value — to be paid to the state. The law, and now its draft rules, spells further capture of Adivasi lands in the name of compensatory afforestation. The Forest Rights Act (FRA) was enacted in 2006 to provide forest-dependent communities with resource rights via individual and community forest land titles. It also recognised long-standing knowledge systems and community efforts in protection of forest resources by formally establishing the authority of the gram sabha in forest stewardship.
- A decade on, the FRA remains grossly under-implemented, and its vision of devolving power to rural communities stonewalled. The CAF Act and draft rules institutionalise this stymieing by placing a huge fund at the unilateral disposal of the forest bureaucracy, giving it unchecked powers to undertake plantations on private and common property resources.This flies in the face of numerous government and non-governmental reports showing the poor ecological and social consequences as well as the corruption which result from this approach.
- The rules provide no meaningful safeguards against the forest bureaucracy implementing compensatory plantations on dense forests, and where FRA claims have been issued, are pending or have to be filed. The rules provide for mere “consultation” with communities in the planning of compensatory afforestation: a clear step backward from the consent provisions in the FRA and the 2014 Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. Consultations are not stipulated for all afforestation projects, and need not even involve the affected gram sabhas. This indicates a wilful blindness to conflicts under way across forested landscapes.